The Woman In Black
As horror movies go, this one is so
old-fashioned it could have been made 70 years ago and no one would have known
It relies heavily on screen time with a
young star, Daniel Radcliffe, star of the “Harry Potter” series.
There’s no question that he comfortable on camera.
Not quite boyish, anymore, but somehow not yet mannish, either, he
plays a young man working for a solicitor’s firm in London, who’s
apparently not shown much initiative in his work, and so he has one last
chance to redeem himself, and that’s to sort through the voluminous papers
of a recently-deceased person on a remote, nearly-inaccessible bog.
So we have lots of scenes of heavy fog,
tides rolling over the only dirt road, thick woods surrounding the old,
dilapidated, mansion, and, occasionally, some very parochial townsfolk who not
only mistrust outsiders, they’re downright hostile to them.
It’s not long before Arthur (Radcliffe)
begins hearing things go bump in the night. The
screenplay is such that at first we catch glimpses of shadowy figures emerging
from the moor, then ghosts, then faces that appear in the dark outside of
windows, and every time they also surprise us with some loud sound and we jump
and titter and enjoy experiencing our skin crawl, but sooner or later they
have to dispense with the cheap cinematic tricks and actually demonstrate a
Arthur himself is grieving for his wife
who died in childbirth, and has left his own little boy in the care of a nanny
while he tries to sort out both the logistical and tangential mess presented
to him, but he’s looking forward to his son arriving by train for the
weekend. But he continues to be haunted
by both his painful memories and his present afflictions.
He figures the reason he’s seeing all these dead people is because he
continues to “see” his lovely bride, in his dreams, and, occasionally, in
a mirror or window reflection. He seems
to have an openness to the unexplained and the other-worldly, which, in a way,
reprises Harry Potter. Except that here he’s not the star, nor does he
possess a magic wand. And he sure could
have used Ron and Hermione’s help. The only one he has to watch his back is
a dog who barks at the ghosts.
It seems some local unwed lady first had
her child taken away from her, by an overly protective sister and her husband,
then she was denied access, then the boy drowned in a horrible accident,
though his body was never recovered from the muck, and the mother hanged
herself, but her spirit still seeks revenge. And
so the hapless villagers continue to experience the mysterious deaths of their
own children, whose apparitions now appear to Arthur, pleading for some kind
Eventually, Arthur figures out that he
has to placate the evil witch-ghost, The Woman in Black, and so he manages to
dig up the little boy’s body, and place it in the woman’s grave, and
assumes that will do the trick. Wrong.
Evil is, apparently, more persistent than that, and refuses to be
placated. Of course, Harry Potter would
have known that.
What’s refreshing about this little
spine-tingler is that it manages to stay away from the recent obsession with
slashing and beheading and blood-spurting theatrics, and also to eschew the
CGI monsters, so it feels both real and reserved.
It just might be the ghost story for those who don’t normally do
Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, Interim Pastor,
St. Stephen’s Presbyterian Church,